America has focused its lens on Utah for decades: From a 1924 silent Tom Mix western through 2011's 127 Hours, the state's scenic landscapes and locations have wowed filmmakers, audiences, and travel aficionados on vacation alike.
Utah's dramatic Rocky Mountain peaks, sheer red-rock cliffs, picturesque Lake Powell, and desert salt flats have provided backdrops for everything from comedies (Austin Powers in Goldmember) to John Wayne classics (Rio Grande) to buddy movies (Thelma and Louise), action thrillers (Mission Impossible 2), and superhero adventures (Ang Lee's The Hulk).
Although production occurs statewide in Utah, the southeastern swath from Moab to Monument Valley is among the the best-recognized sets in the world.
And the action isn't limited to film: With two national parks - Canyonlands and Arches - and Utah's own Dead Horse Point State Park nearby, Moab is an extraordinary adventure-travel destination. It was in Canyonlands National Park that the true story the 2011 Oscar-nominated Best Film 127 Hours took place.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch….
Two former Utah working ranches have been converted to lodgings likely to please the most demanding screen queen. Red Cliffs Lodge sits on the banks of the Colorado River outside Moab. Surrounded by tall cliffs, its cabins all have a private patio facing the river.
Film aficionados can experience the Moab Movie Museum at Red Cliffs Ranch. It exhibits local Utah film memorabilia from the early days to the present. Afterwards, savor the regional harvest in the adjacent tasting room at Castle Creek Winery.
Lodge guests may take a hosted tour to former Utah movie sites or a guided trail ride into the nearby mountains. Tennis, volleyball, an outdoor swimming pool, and RCL's Cowboy Camp add to the fun.
Recipient of the AAA Four Diamonds Award, Sorrel River Ranch Resort stands four miles upriver from Red Cliffs. Elegantly rustic timber-and-stone accommodations have kitchenettes, high-speed Internet access, satellite TV, and hydrotherapy tubs.
Guests can loll in the property's new luxury spa or explore the Utah countryside on mountain bikes, horses, ATVs, or 4x4s. The concierge books travel adventure trips and flight-seeing as well as tours of national parks and ancestral pueblos.
Cowboys and Indians
Kanab, also in southwestern Utah, earned the nickname "Little Hollywood" decades ago because more than 100 westerns were shot there. John Wayne, Clark Gable, Ben Johnson, Barbara Stanwyck, and Jane Russell all performed for Kanab cameras. These days cowboy poets, musicians, and story-tellers gather at the annual Western Legends Round-Up festival each August, where silent films and westerns are screened. Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, must-sees for summer visitors, are close.
The drive to Monument Valley, where travelers encounter trading posts, leads to the tribal lands of the Navajo Nation and the Four Corners region, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico meet.
Where the Stars Shine
For uncommon privacy, rent a houseboat on Lake Powell on the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Its blue-green waters invite fishing and boating, and secluded beaches tempt swimmers and sunbathers. And for a truly star-studded experience, look to the Utah night sky, as dazzling as Hollywood's own constellation.